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 Animals  India Project #21710

Help Save Elephants in India

by Wildlife Trust of India
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Help Save Elephants in India
Help Save Elephants in India
Help Save Elephants in India
Help Save Elephants in India
Help Save Elephants in India
Help Save Elephants in India
Help Save Elephants in India
Help Save Elephants in India
Help Save Elephants in India
Help Save Elephants in India
Help Save Elephants in India
Help Save Elephants in India
Help Save Elephants in India
Help Save Elephants in India
Help Save Elephants in India
Help Save Elephants in India
Help Save Elephants in India
Elephant Crop Raiding
Elephant Crop Raiding

The forests of Golaghat and adjacent district of Karbi-Anglong symbolize a key landscape for elephants, represented by a number of reserve forests and sanctuaries. There are established corridors (Kalapahar-Daigurung) in the region, which the elephants use as their migratory path between patches of forests. However, in the last decade or so the area has experienced high levels of fragmentation owing to the large-scale destruction of forests, caused by expansion of agriculture lands, tea gardens, linear infrastructures, mining etc. The obliteration of their natural corridor has exposed these gentle giants to conflict with humans living along the forest fringes. Depleting resources within the forests has additionally contributed to higher levels of conflict, as herds of elephants visit these fringe villages in search of food and water. Loss of crop, property and human lives due to raiding elephants, has forced the locals to see them as a threat to their well being.

Thoramukh and Thorajan in the south west part of the Golaghat district lie in close proximity to three protected areas i.e. Nambor Doi RF, Garampani WLS, Daigurung RF and experience high levels of crop raiding cases, especially during the paddy season. As per records, the elephant herds here destroy 70-80% of the total crop produce, which puts a major economic dent on the farmers. Recently, the affected locals unanimously decided to address this issue and have plans to construct watch towers. They are also in the process of forming anti depredation squads (each squad to have 4-5 members), by engaging youths from the affected villages. However, they lack and are in need of technical guidance to carry this initiative effectively. As a result, they requested Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) to assist them in this and provide basic gears such as high powered torches for the squads, to help them drive away the crop raiding elephants from the fields.

WTI acknowledging this initiative has agreed to assist them in implementing the mitigation measures, thereby reducing crop loss and retaliatory killing of elephants. Through this endeavour, WTI also aims to showcase the effectiveness of a community driven model to mitigate HEC in the targeted region.

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Team addressed the heightened levels of HEC.
Team addressed the heightened levels of HEC.

Elephants are highly intelligent, long ranging animals that follow traditional migratory routes, passed down from one generation to the next, to move between forested areas in search of food and water. With the destruction and fragmentation of wild habitats caused by multitude of natural and anthropogenic factors these gentle giants are forced to move through human dominated areas, causing an upsurge in Human-Elephant conflict (HEC).

Elephant corridors form vital natural habitat linkages between forest patches and allow elephants to maintain genetic flow and offset seasonal variations in the availability of forage and water. Dadzu-Lumia Elephant Corridor (also known as the Dezzling Elephant Corridor) serves as the critical linkage for elephant habitats of Pakke Tiger Reserve and Doimara Forest Reserve in Arunachal Pradesh. In the past few years, Elephants moving through the areas had been entering human settlements in the fringe villages of Ramda, Khuppi, and Kimi, posing a threat to human lives and causing damage to property (houses, parked vehicles, kitchen gardens etc.) As human-wildlife conflict can reduce local support for species conservation, urgent action was required. 

Through your support, Rapid Action Project was initiated to address the escalating problem of HEC. Local people were motivated and engaged who could aid in conflict mitigation. Adequate training on elephant behaviors and effective techniques of driving elephants from human settlements were provided. The Anti depredation team thus formed, were also provided logistical support and essential equipments required for the proper conduct of their duties in areas where conflict was most common. 

During the course of the project, the anti depredation teams made successful interventions including driving away a wild elephants that had been regularly raiding a granary in Tippi village, and chasing a herd of five elephants away from another settlement and into Pakke Tiger Reserve. The teams monitored the area on a regular basis and no other conflict situation was reported. In fact, no loss of life or property has been recorded since the RAP was implemented.

The team trained on conflict mitigation techniques will continue to avoid HEC instances within the area and ensure that our National Heritage animal is given their Right of passage for years to come.

Anti depredation teams mitigating the HEC.
Anti depredation teams mitigating the HEC.
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1) Sensitizing the villagers through Godha Naach
1) Sensitizing the villagers through Godha Naach

Increasing human population and infrastructural development are leading to the fragmentation of forests. As a consequence of this, the habitat for wild animals is shrinking at a very fast rate.  Elephants are highly intelligent, long-ranging animals that follow their traditional routes to move from one place to another in search of food. Their migratory paths are hindered multiple obstacles by irrigation canals, factories, national highways and railway lines, which leads to rise in human elephant conflicts. 

Over the last decade, instances of human-elephant conflict have seen a sharp incline in Odisha. The Chanadaka-Dampara wildlife sanctuary, Bhubaneswar holds about 90 elephants in a small and degraded forest of about 190 sq km. Seeking refuge, these elephants wander in rural lands and patches of forests in Athgarh forest division. Whenever the herd emerges out of the sanctuary at night in search of food, thousands of people materialise out of nowhere, and starts abusing the elephants relentlessly. The herd is being harassed and beaten with wooden stick for no reason. The mobs of people surround the herd and don’t allow their passage. This has become a kind of entertainment for the people every evening in Athgarh forest division. Similar incidence was reported in Dhenkanal forest division, where irate villagers trapped the elephants migrating from Sunajhari and Kantajhari reserve forest in the middle of the fast flowing Brahmani River. This was done in retaliation for crop losses and damage caused to their houses by elephants.

To avoid the replication of shame incident of Athgarh forest division, a rapid action project was initiated in Dhenkanal to provide safe passage for the elephants. Along with monitoring for human elephant mitigation, the primary response teams (PRTs) are also conducting night patrolling with Forest dept and keeping a vigil on the conflict prone villages. The team members are ensuring that villagers do not block the elephant’s migratory passage. To change people’s apathy towards elephants, it is crucial to sensitize the affected communities and foster awareness about the species. The PRTs also conducted sensitization programmes with the help of a local folk media popularly known as Godha Naach (Horse dance) villages under Meramundali & Dihadol Forest Sections of Dhenkanal Forest Division.  Godha Naach is a traditional folk dance dedicated to the goddess of fisherman community. The program was aimed to build the relationship between communities, primary response team and forest department. The first such program was arranged in Sridiha village. This program was used as a platform to disseminate the message of conservation of the elephants among villagers since the Godha Naach attracts a huge number of people. The chief artist known as ‘Gayak’ (singer) composed the folk lore on the several topics related to conservation of elephants, their role in ecosystem, history and causes of conflicts. Various reasons of elephant deaths like electrocution, poisoning, dehydration, poaching were also mentioned in the lore. The people were also introduced about elephant corridors of Dhenkanal and compensation schemes available. People wearing the dresses which look alike horses, performed the dance, and hence it is called Ghoda naach (horse dance). Instead of the fact that villagers are badly affected by the conflicts, all of them showed their interest in the event. They made arrangements for the visitors, listened to the gayak and understood the importance of elephants. Nearly 400 people witnessed the program along with the Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) Miss. Rinku Kumari (IFS) and Mr. Bibhuti Bhusan Pattnaik, (FRO), Dhenkanal range.

To bring it to a larger extent, more such sensitization programs were conducted in the conflict prone villages. The proverb “Walls do speak” says that paintings/hoardings done on walls helps in communicating the message to larger mass of people. Apart from sensitization programs, wall paintings were also done in strategic locations like community buildings, bus stop, forest quarters and gram panchayat office to reach out the message of elephant conservation to the villagers. The wall paintings will deliver the guidelines to provide the right of passage to the elephants and how to deal with the conflicts. 

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A herd of wild elephants in Dhenkanal
A herd of wild elephants in Dhenkanal

Elephants migrate from one forest to another in their established routes. However, due to rapid urbanization and development, these routes are facing a high level of degradation and fragmentation which inturn leading to many instances of negative interaction between elephants and humans. Dhenkanal district in Odisha holds a good population of elephants. Recently, few worrying cases came into media limelight, where locals in retaliation against the crop raiding elephants surrounded elephant herds in the fast flowing water of the Brahmani River. In response, WTI field team conducted several meetings and discussion with the locals. Their concerns were noticed and they were made aware about the importance of elephants in the landscape. Ten response teams have been formulated (based in all conflict sites across Dhenkanal) who will assist FD staff for Human Elephant Conflict (HEC) mitigation. These teams are constantly monitoring the area, acting as informers for the Forest Dept. and are also involved in sensitizing their fellow villagers towards elephant conservation.

In a recent case, one of the village response teams witnessed a herd of 20 elephant near Kumushi village of Odisha, The herd was protecting a pregnant elephant that was about to deliver thus, was not moving from the area. For over 10 hours the team kept a constant vigil on the herd to protect them from any anthropogenic threat.   After the calf was born the elephants moved to a nearby hill. The team followed (through a safe distance) the herd and accorded adequate protection for three continuous days, till they moved in dense forest. Forest officials acknowledged and praised the members of the response team for this conservation effort. 

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Roaming in the field
Roaming in the field

Elephants have vast home ranges and tend to migrate between areas seasonally. In recent decades, a growing human population and its myriad developmental needs has led to the degradation and fragmentation of forest habitats, bringing humans and elephants into increased contact and conflict.

Dhenkanal district of Odisha, which accounts for the 2nd highest elephant population in Odisha after Similipal National Park is interspersed with villages and crop fields is reeling under frequent negative encounters with humans and damage to crops and habitations.  Since 2010, 402 elephants and 354 persons have reportedly been killed due to Human Elephant Conflict (HEC) in this region.

Recently, Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) was made aware of several instances where elephants migrating from Sunajhari and Kantajhari Reserve Forests were being trapped in the middle of the fast flowing Brahmani River by irate villagers on both sides. This was done in retaliation for crop losses and damage caused to their houses by elephants. WTI with support from Charities Aid Foundation - India (CAF India) is trying to ensure the passage for elephants by addressing the concerns of locals and involving them in the process of finding solutions. Response teams have been formed among the targeted villages. The teams have been equipped, trained to safely drive and deter wild elephants from conflict sites. They were also charged with sensitising fellow villagers about elephants and acting as forest department informers about the location of elephant herds.

Sagging electric lines had caused number of deaths of the gentle giants which roamed freely in the forests and also in private lands. Similar issue was informed by one of our response team in targeted village to DFO. After looking into the perspective, two new poles have been installed as correction measures. The spikes have been fitted at height which is higher than elephant’s height. Another response team on NH-55 is providing passage to elephants and also advising the people to keep their smaller vehicles behind the heavy vehicles for safety reason. The team provided the protection to newly born calf of an elephant for about three days until the both of them found a safer place to survive. Forest officials acknowledged and praised the members of the response team for this conservation effort.

Through continuous monitoring, the response teams will try to control issues of conflict in the area and ensure that villagers do not block elephants’ migratory passage. Addressing conflicts with elephants will further help marginalised people while avoiding the greater risks towards these large herbivores, thus saving the lives of both animals and humans. 

Preparing of response teams
Preparing of response teams
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Organization Information

Wildlife Trust of India

Location: Noida, Uttar Pradesh - India
Website:
Project Leader:
Sahil Choksi
Noida, Uttar Pradesh India
$37,435 raised of $50,000 goal
 
617 donations
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